Durban - EMPLOYMENT desperation drove thousands of health-care professionals to Dr Pixley Ka-Isaka Seme Memorial Hospital in KwaMashu on Tuesday, which resulted in a stampede and left a number of applicants injured.
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health held an assessment test for professional nurses at the hospital on Tuesday.
According to the department, only 250 people were supposed to attend, but instead thousands arrived. As a result, the department decided to suspend the recruitment process until Wednesday.
The first batch of posts for the hospital were advertised near the end of 2020.
On Wednesday, Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) provincial secretary Mandla Shabangu said they were saddened by Tuesday’s events, which showed how dire unemployment was, while the department was also faced with shortages.
Shabangu said that more than 5 000 people had arrived at the new hospital desperate for employment.
He added that in 2018, more than 10 000 enrolled nurses had arrived at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital for an assessment for 300 nurses posts. Denosa thought the department would have learnt from that experience how to manage such interviews.
“This exposes poor planning by the department, especially after the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital incident where nurses queued under the sun just to write a test,” said Shabangu.
“Again, we wish to express our disappointment at how nurses were treated yesterday (on Tuesday), and such should be condemned at all costs as it degrades our noble profession.”
Earlier this month, the eThekwini Municipality said the Durban unemployment rate rose sharply from 14% in the third quarter of 2020 to 20.5% in the fourth quarter, which translated to 115 000 more people looking for work.
A week prior, it was revealed that South Africa’s unemployment rate increased by 1.7% to 32.5% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared with 30.8% in the previous quarter.
IFP health spokesperson Ncamisile Nkwanyana said the department had been reckless in how it handled the job interviews, especially given the threat of Covid-19.
“This is negligence of the highest order,” said Nkwanyana. “Whoever initiated this fiasco should be brought to book. It is absurd that the department, which should be encouraging social distancing and discouraging super- spreader gatherings like this one, is the one calling people to gather in large numbers.”
Nkwanyana said that Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane had informed the KZN Legislature portfolio committee on health that there was a proper programme in place to ensure a smooth process for the employment of workers.
“However, what we are witnessing at the hospital right now is a disgrace that is highly irresponsible of the department. It could result in new Covid-19 infections and the unnecessary deaths of many more people,” said Nkwanyana.
The department said: “While we understand that the rate of unemployment is high in the country, all citizens have a responsibility, at all times, to abide by the law, respect all processes and protocols, and respond to job assessment tests or interviews only when invited.”
The Health MEC said the recruitment process for the hospital started on Tuesday, with their first batch of interviews meant for 250 invited people.
“Regrettably, people who were not invited also arrived, resulting in overcrowding. As a department we have re-strategised. From now onwards, all qualifying candidates will be contacted and notified about the date, venue and time for their assessment test, and those are going to be conducted in different areas. We deeply regret any inconvenience caused as a result of these changes,” said Simelane.
“We wish to emphasise that those who have not been contacted must not come to these venues so we do not have the same challenge again.”
Department spokesperson Ntokozo Maphisa said according to information at their disposal, no reports were received of any individuals who were on the register and scheduled to write the assessment test having been injured.